The Washington Times - March 25, 2012, 11:56PM

With a Saturday night off, the Washington Capitals had to watch idle as the Buffalo Sabres slipped into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.

That made an already-important matchup with the Minnesota Wild on Sunday all that much more so.


We knew we needed to win to keep pace with them,” defenseman Dennis Wideman said. “They’re coming on really strong and we obviously wanted to be tied with them going into the big game on Tuesday.”

So the Caps waxed the Wild 3-0 thanks to captain Alex Ovechkin (one goal, one assist) and Braden Holtby (28-save shutout). They beat Minnesota just like Buffalo did, which really wasn’t that surprising, especially considering the stakes with Buffalo on the schedule Tuesday.

We wanted to make sure we set ourselves up good for that game,” said forward Jason Chimera, who scored his 19th goal of the season, the game-winner, Sunday. “We wanted to take care of business tonight. Guys were mentioning that it’s going to be a big game coming up on Tuesday and it’s going to be fun.”

Maybe the Caps didn’t have fun playing the Wild’s plodding, trapping style, but Ovechkin insinuated that this win was the culmination of some strong recent play.

Well, I think the last couple games we played pretty well. Like, first game we lost in Philly and we lostWinnipeg and I think we deserve that kind of victories,” Ovechkin said. “Today Holtby played well and all the guys played unbelievable, and we did what [coach Dale] Hunter say to us. Again, we score goals and we win the game.”

Thanks to the victory, the Caps are again tied with the Sabres, technically in eighth place on the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker. They’re three points back of the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, who lost in a shootout to the New York Islanders on Sunday.